Late last month, workers taped notices on the front doors of tenants who live at two low-income apartment complexes northeast of downtown.
The notices informed the tenants that because of “recent shootings, criminal drug and gang activities” at Raleigh North and Milbank Court, the owners of the properties had partnered with the police department “to take back our community” and imposed a 10 p.m. curfew.
It started May 27 at 150-unit Raleigh North and 80-unit Milbank Court. The two-story, red-brick complexes sit on opposite sides of North Raleigh Boulevard near Lions Park.
This week, police charged Derrick Lamont Jones, 21, with the shooting death of Floyd Lewright Smith Jr., 26, and the attempted murder of another man in the 1800 block of Cantwell Court, a cul-de-sac near the intersection of Glascock Street at Raleigh North. The shootings happened Thursday about 3:50 p.m., hours before the curfew, police reported.
Prior to Thursday’s fatal shooting, police had investigated four murders over the past 12 months in the area, all within walking distance to Raleigh North and Milbank Court.
Caroline Bligh, a spokeswoman with The Aspen Cos., a New Jersey-based company that owns the properties, said in a statement that keeping residents in the community safe is a top priority.
“We have been working collaboratively with the Raleigh Police Department to implement a variety of initiatives and procedures to curb illegal activity in the area of Raleigh North and Milbank Court,” Bligh said. “The curfew that has now been implemented at the properties has actually been well-received by the majority of our residents, many of whom have expressed that they feel safer with it in effect, and it has been effective in curbing the amount of loitering at the properties. We have no issue with residents of the buildings returning home after 10 p.m., as long as they are not disrupting the peace that their neighbors are entitled to.”
But one resident, Wanda Hunter, a mother of two who has lived at Raleigh North for the past four years, said a curfew will not solve the violence and crime problem that has long plagued the neighborhood.
“They are shooting at nighttime and they’re shooting in the daytime,” she said. “You can’t put in a curfew and expect it to solve the problem.”
The property owners say the curfew is in effect until further notice. Children under the age of 12 should be accompanied by a parent or adult at all times. Any guest who is visiting someone in the neighborhoods should not be standing or sitting outside unless the head of the home where they are visiting is present.
The curfew notice warns that any head of household or resident in the community who is connected to criminal activity or has an “unauthorized guest” in their home will be given a lease violation and could lose their rental subsidy.
“This is a no guns, no drugs community,” the notice stated in capital letters. “We have zero tolerance for any criminal activity. Work with us so we can make our community safe again.”
Raleigh police spokeswoman Laura Hourigan said the department cannot legally enforce a curfew on private property.
“However,” she said, “we do engage in collaborative problem-solving in an effort to enhance the quality of life for neighborhood residents. Through our robust community-policing efforts, we routinely partner with apartment complexes, businesses and communities throughout the city to address quality of life issues as well as criminal activity.”
In addition to a beefed-up presence in recent weeks, the police department has assigned a community officer to work with residents in the neighborhood, said City Councilman Corey Branch, who represents the Southeast District, which includes the apartment complexes.
Branch said he’s received mixed feedback from residents and youth mentors who work in the neighborhood.
“There are some issues with criminal activity,” Branch said. “For years, I’ve been hearing these concerns.”
Hunter said officers are enforcing trespassing laws, since they don’t have the authority to enforce the curfew. She said she talked with an officer who works in the community and asked him how police determine who is trespassing in the community.
“He just told me that was up to the police,” she said. “When he gave me that answer, I knew it wasn’t going to be a good situation. There have been several instances where people were charged with trespassing on the property, but there have been several incidents where people have been harassed.”
Jamica Sargeant, a 26-year-old mother of two boys, ages 2 and 6, said she favors the curfew, despite some mixed feelings. A gunman shot into her apartment in October.
The apartment complex management has not yet repaired a gouge mark on the living room wall and two bullet holes on the opposite wall where gunshots entered the home.
“It’s just crazy over here,” Sargeant said. “The office tries to help, but they can’t help us after 5 p.m. It should be a curfew for the 13- to 17-year-olds because everything over here is gang-related.”
Sargeant said she’s afraid for children in the neighborhood.
“You don’t know when they will start shooting,” she said last Monday. “Last night, we were across the street and they started shooting. Everyone wanted to go inside.”
Members of the media were not allowed to attend a meeting last week at Raleigh North’s community center in the 1100 block of Glascock Road, where an apartment manager, four patrol officers and a police captain were on hand to explain the curfew to about 16 residents and members of community-based groups.
“The residents are in agreement with the curfew, but they have lots of concerns with law enforcement officers harassing them,” Diane Powell, director of Justice Served NC, a nonprofit that provides mentoring services on behalf of young people who are in jail, said after the meeting.
Hunter, who helped organize the meeting, said residents won’t speak out because they are afraid of being evicted.
“For many of them, it’s their last resort for housing,” she said.